The Middleton School District announced that it will reinstate the employees involved in last week’s Halloween costume controversy following an investigation.
In a statement posted to the district’s website Wednesday, Superintendent Josh Middleton wrote that “our focus is now one of healing with an opportunity for all of us to grow together as a community.”
“It is important to note that after the district’s review, it has been validated that there is nothing more than love and commitment in the hearts of these teachers and aides,” Middleton wrote. “The educators involved chose the profession to work with and educate ALL students and we are confident in their abilities to provide an effective learning environment for every student in the building.”
The teachers and aides involved in the photos also issued a statement.
“While there was no malice or ill will in our intentions, we recently came up short in our understanding of the awareness of the impact of the choices we made, regardless of our intent,” the statement read. “Individually and collectively we are taking, and will continue to take, steps to learn, grow, and better understand and embrace cultural differences.”
Middleton also announced that acting principal Mark Hopkins will continue to serve as interim principal at Middleton Heights. During a special school board meeting Saturday, Middleton announced that Hopkins would serve as acting principal at Heights “for now.”
The news came less than 24 hours after Middleton patrons voted down three separate bond issues totaling nearly $29 million.
The controversy came to light last week when several Middleton Heights staffers posed for photographs depicting a border wall, while other employees dressed in stereotypical Mexican-themed costumes that included sombreros and fake mustaches.
News of the photos, which were posted to the district website and later deleted, went viral Friday. Many people denounced the costumes online as racist, inappropriate and offensive. In response to the situation, Middleton and the school board announced Saturday that they had placed all 14 people involved in the controversy on paid administrative leave.
Hours after the photos circulated, advocates launched opposing petitions online. One called for accountability, declaring, “No racism in Middleton School District.” Another, which called for reinstating the teachers, garnered even more signatures. Together, the number of signatures added to the two petitions more than quadrupled the entire population of Middleton, a growing, rural community of 7,439 residents west of Boise.
On Wednesday, Middleton wrote that the district “will welcome our teachers and aides back into their classrooms in the next few days and we embrace this opportunity for continuous improvement…”
That same day Middleton dismissed classes early so parents, staff and community members could participate in a cultural diversity training program.
“Today we began the re-entry process,” Superintendent Middleton wrote.
Middleton also said that findings of the investigation, including the outcomes and any disciplinary actions, are confidential.
It is unclear what the investigation revealed, but the district has changed its tone considerably over the past four days. In a statement issued Saturday, the Middleton School Board said, “This type of behavior has no place in education and is certainly not tolerated here at Middleton School District.
By Wednesday, with the investigation complete, Middleton wrote that “we are confident in their abilities to provide an effective learning environment for every student in the building.”